In the dairy farm of Mirabel, in Ardèche, operated by her uncle, Nina Ferrer-Gleize has always seen, hanging on the wall, aged and faded by the years, a reproduction of the painting gleaners (1857), by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875). The painting showing three bent women busy harvesting neglected ears during the harvest also adorns a teapot and a canvas. Originally, the painter Millet – himself of peasant origin – probably wanted to point the finger at poverty in the countryside, but his work ended up becoming the symbol of a dreamed peasant world, before machines and fertilizers.
In fact, the images produced on the agricultural world are often nostalgic, and Nina Ferrer-Gleize has always had trouble identifying with them: “They always sign the end of something”, said the young woman. We think of the remarkable work of Raymond Depardon, who returned to the farm of his childhood, Garet (Rhône), after the death of his father, with delicate images tinged with elegy.
Concerned about “move the gaze”, the artist and researcher at the National School of Photography in Arles (Bouches-du-Rhône) and at the University of Aix-Marseille has therefore chosen to devote her thesis to a study of artistic and literary representations of the peasant world while producing its own vision of things. A long-term work that resulted in a scholarly book and an exhibition at the GwinZegal Art Center, in Guingamp (Côtes-d’Armor): two fascinating objects and at several levels of reading, entitled “Agriculture as writing”. , carried out as closely as possible to the daily life of the farm: “I didn’t want to build a mausoleumassures the artist, but to concentrate on what is happening. »
Back and forth between past and present
For four years, Nina Ferrer-Gleize therefore spent the summer on the farm of her uncle Jean-Louis Gleize, a breeder at the head of a herd of ninety cows, observing his daily activity, between milkings and calvings, round trips by tractor, repairs, picking up stones. She wrote, in addition to her essay, a text in the first person, which attests to the close links with her object of study.
The images, which focus above all on the objects and activities punctuating the harsh life of the dairy farm, go back and forth between the past and the present: from one generation to another (the uncle replays the gestures of yesteryear with old tools), from one relationship of domination to another. Side by side are the land rental contract concluded in the past with the noble family of the area and the contract for the sale of milk with Danone, offered at a price too low for the uncle, who refuses for the moment to sign, postponing the inevitable. Other documents evoke the representations of the peasant world by Félix Arnaudin, ethnologist before his time, folklorist and linguist from the end of the 19th century.e century.
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